I’m back… I know, besides the submitted poems on the Halloween contest, you haven’t heard from me much during the past couple weeks. I have been traveling. My stay in California was a dream come true, once again! Everything went smoothly and as planned. I met friends, writers, nice people, a cute cop I’ve never seen before and had a few meetings. And of course I was writing – and writing – and writing!
The trip to my destination and back this time was a dream too – but more a nightmare.
Booking my flight on my miles:
For years now I am collecting miles with two different airlines: American Airlines and United. So far so good.
Now: Airlines don’t like it too much when you don’t upgrade your miles but use them demanding a full round trip. Usually, outside vacation time (summer and holidays), there’s barely more than one seat available for people who don’t want to pay their trip (like me). That means in clear words: You cannot pick your trip and the flights – you have to grab what they offer.
This time to me this meant: changing the plane twice on my way to California, running like an Olympic sprinter through JFK and enjoying a layover on the way back. What an adventure! In particular when you see four different airports on one trip, and you’re treated like a terrorist on two of them.
Before I boarded the first plane, I was taken out, almost secretly, by a security guard at the gate. They hid me behind a few privacy shields and started to ‘take apart’ my purse and carry on. I usually don’t pack a full mini-suitcase as a carry-on. After all, I’m traveling to a place where I can buy what I need in case my suitcase gets lost. But I got a few necessary things with me. They opened it all up, removed things, stuffed them back in and scanned everything with some device that is supposed to display traces of explosives.
I wasn’t particularly scared since I don’t keep explosives in my fridge on a regular basis… (and yes, this does sound a bit sarcastic). From what I hear one can mix vinegar and baking powder, and it explodes… but let’s be serious here: This is a security step I accept, understand and serves my safety as much as everyone else’s on this plane.
Just when they called some woman who brushed my hair with gloved hands, I got slight problems. I have an aversion to being touched by someone I don’t know. I accept it is somewhat necessary at times, but this was not one of them. Well, after that I was ready for boarding.
The first flight was okay, so was the second. Okay – but not more. But I’ll get to that later since it has to do with the state of the aircrafts itself.
After that second flight, I was sitting and walking around for a bit. Then the airline employees started the boarding. I was in one of the two last groups to board when the boarding pass I held alarmed… They took me out and shoved me towards the security gate where they ran the next ‘terrorist’ scan… As I said, usually I don’t mind. It’s for every traveler’s benefit – what stressed me out was the freaking lousy timing!! We are talking about a full scan of me and my bags, barely 10 minutes before the door closed, even though I had been waiting for over 2 hours at the gate before!
I’m normally a quite cool headed person and not easy to annoy or stress… but this time it hit me. I had been planning this trip for months, and now I was about to miss my flight, even though I had done everything right.
The security personnel was nice and hurried up; an airline employee waited with my boarding pass, and we all were in a rush. At the end, of course, it was clear I wasn’t carrying any explosives and never had, and we ran back to the gate. About thirty steps away from the door I started hyperventilating… they, in fact, had waited… the employees were talking like crazy by radio and when they saw I was about to collapse they ran towards us… one grabbed my bags, the other two half shoved and half carried me towards the plane. By the time I stumbled through the door two third of the plane could hear my rattling breath and I felt dizzy – and pissed.
I have to say I was treated nicely during the flight and finally calmed down again… I was on my way to California. Still, a terrorist scan on me – twice?? I secretly eyed the other passengers during the flight – and there were a few I would have considered by far more suspicious than me! Random – my ass.
I normally pack very deliberately. But this time I figure my common sense was already on vacation. I forgot, on the way back it would be quite cold in NY, which I felt. I was freezing my butt off. A layover at JFK is a slight adventure – but arriving at Midnight has its advantages. I never saw JFK this dead. I suspected they had the airport closed down. But of course, it was only my impression. I was picked up by the shuttle, taken to the hotel and the next day taken back to the airport. All was fine.
Except for one thing:
American Airlines has spent a hell lot of money to re-paint their old ‘shakers’ but forgot that it would make more sense to buy a few new planes for their fleet. Hell, I sat in the same planes I flew already over 25 years ago. None of the planes had a personal entertainment system in their seats. The carpets in the plane are old and stale, their seats are worn out and uncomfortable, their leg room barely enough for a twelve-year-old kid… everything is shabby, and even though the flight attendants do whatever they can to keep the plane clean, they can’t do magic.
I worked during the flight and wasn’t doing well… I still appreciate very much how two flight attendants realized the emotional state I was in and took very good and considerate care of me! Thank you for that. But this doesn’t make the airplane more comfortable.
I have to say, in all these years, American Airline very rarely has messed up with their service onboard. Kudos for that! In one thing American Airlines was doing okay: They had Onboard Internet, too bad they hadn’t found out yet how to keep it up. It disconnected in almost perfect regularity. Maybe in newer aircrafts, this would improve?
The flight was half empty, and I had two seats to myself. (means, in this case, two uncomfortable seats I could choose from) – but I also had two flight attendants who did more than was probably in their job description!
Despite the terrorist scans and the lousy time management I very much enjoyed my stay in California! Will I use my miles again to book a full round trip? – YOU BET! 😀